N0va – The Essentials – Album Review
And here I thought N0va was old-school…suppose I’m old enough to remember when a remix was actually a remix. You know…that thing where it was still basically a part of the same song, cut-up & redone, reassembled into a different composition, but still retaining the essence of what made the original to begin with. However much the kids out there today figure they can appropriate the word – a remix simply ain’t just designing a new rhyme over an existing beat – that’s a whole other thing entirely.
So aside from this fairly new & somewhat insane labeling found within today’s music culture, which ain’t specifically on N0va directly so much as EVERYONE out there right now anyway, I’m all good with it. I’ve spent my time singing over other people’s instrumentals as well, designing new songs out of’em, honing the craft etc. – I’d probably still call them original or partially-original compositions or something OTHER than a remix, but that’s me. Like I said, I’m old. End rant.
The real point is, I hear where he’s comin’ from. Sometimes you hear a beat or a track out there and hell, you wish you were able to take your own crack at it somehow – and that’s essentially what The Essentials, is. N0va’s picked himself some prime cuts from the music-scene, and he’s laid his own sauce on’em. If you’ve heard his stuff from the past or read reviews on his records here at the page, you know he’s a reliable emcee that brings talent to the mic…let’s find out what he’s chosen to do with some classic beats you’ll be familiar with, now featuring all-new twists on the bars, via the main man himself – N0va! Back in action for the second time in 2019 already even…looks like the Underdog is grindin’ hard.
Besides all that…we’ve got him pegged pretty closely already to what the goal really is here…this is your boy staying sharp on the mic – he’s giving this record away free & ain’t tryin’ to cop dough off of other people’s beats – he’s looking to supply you & your speakers with that good-good for your summer y’all. So like N0va will tell you right there on the official page at Bandcamp where you’ll find The Essentials posted up, give the man “15 mins of your time! You won’t be disappointed.” He ain’t wrong homies.
N0va comes out swingin’ right off the drop on “Wildlife” (Eminem – “Who Knew”) – immediately stating his case and pointing out the flaws in the scene, as he demonstrates what’s been missing by supplyin’ it. And that’s the blueprint right there y’all…lead by example…N0va’s all about that from the quality of his rhymes to the amount of work he puts in & sheer volume of music he puts out there into the world at such a consistent pace. He takes on critics, haters, and the rest of the music-scene at large throughout this first cut on The Essentials…as per his usual standard, he’ll tell ya exactly what’s on his mind, and instantly comes out looking to land verbal punches you’ll wake up & remember the morning after. He’s only got a couple cuts on this record that’ll hit the three-minute or more mark & he starts The Essentials with one of’em – more time with N0va is never a bad thing…the more time he gets, the more personality you get, the more charisma, the more lyrics to absorb…he’s got an arsenal of skills & he starts flexin’em right away on this first track, weaving & winding his words around the beat, shifting & pivoting his energy on the m-i-c to suit each moment of the song from bold tones to straight whispers. He’s a performance-minded emcee…and lately these days, he’s been revealing he’s right on top of his game – this first track is full of hooks, socially relevant insights, and N0va’s signature swagger on display.
Okay wait…is he rappin’ or ordering lunch off the menu on these bars of “T.O State Of Mind” (Nas – “NY State Of Mind”)? There’s a whole lot of food for thought on this song, know what I mean homies? Dude works in an impressive amount of Pop-culture into his material…always has and I suspect always will…he’s shamelessly taking what was once New York’s and taking it home to Toronto on this cut; could very well be an echo or premonition of what’s currently happening between the Warriors and Raptors – just sayin.’ Sometimes things just belong elsewhere – N0va gets that…whether it’s been his own level of skill or finding tracks that suit him best, he’s evolved to find where he fits the tightest – perhaps it’s only natural that he hauls this beat to Toronto and gives it some of the proper area-code lovin’ it deserves. I ain’t complainin’ – the flow from N0va is as solid & entertaining as ever…ultimately I think he’s probably got a few more cuts that you’ll find later on in this lineup that will stand out more, but this is still a strong track on The Essentials that supplies that swagger you’re seeking out for your speakers.
“Y’all been movin in inches, I go the whole nine” – good LORD that’s a killer line. As we all already know, N0va’s stocked full of’em and has flexed a ton of rad ones throughout this set so far – but on “Bouncin’” (Fat Joe – “Lean Back”) you’ll find gems like that quote right there. Definitely a huge highlight on this record – the drama & intensity of this beat is perfectly suited for N0va’s confident style, and he certainly rises to the challenge here, delivering a fluid flow that continuously cranks out words into the mic at a rapid pace. It’s right around here where you really start to feel the short-length of The Essentials and how it’ll play to its advantage…you want to circle back to a track like “Bouncin’” as quickly as possible, but with how fast this set-list will come at ya, you’ll be back to it in no time at all if you’ve got your repeat button clicked to ‘on’ where it should be for this record. To me, this is where the stakes were savagely raised on The Essentials…N0va’s capable of many great things – but this is what I’m looking for. Dude slices & dices these bars…energy is perfect, lines are killer…backing vocals are smartly laced-in & carry a beastly low-end sound to’em…to a longtime listener of N0va’s work, I think you can always tell the difference between when he’s out to have some fun and when he’s on a mission to make a serious statement with his skill out there, nuts first like it is on “Bouncin’” – this will be a favorite for many.
“Landmine – My Fans” (D12 – “My Band”) is definitely a huge highlight for N0va’s signature flow & blazing speed…dude fires off words at a seriously impressive & rapid pace throughout this cut. Back-to-back with “Bouncin’” right beforehand…you’re probably looking at & listening to the strongest couple tracks combined to stoke the fire you’ll find at the end of the first-half of this record. Would I have taken another two-minutes of “Landmine?” Hellz yes I would! You would too – you know it! Take what we can get though…that’s what we gotta do here, we’ve got no other choice. That being said, what you DO get in less than two-minutes is N0va wild’n’out and givin’ you all the details of some pretty wild nights he’s havin’ – it’s definitely fully-loaded with entertainment & eyebrow-raising lyrics for ya. Really flawless stuff coming out from the main man on the mic throughout this record…hearing him rip through bar-after-bar with such focus, style, and supreme lines should tell your ears all they need to know – N0va’s sharp AF right now, hungry, and perhaps more determined than ever here in 2019.
Whoa…whoa…whoa – there are people out there “forgettin’ bout the Wu-Tang?” Who? I want names and addresses homie…apparently I’ve got some stops to make & some minds to educate. You’ll hear this line on the N0va remix of Gwen Stefani & Eve’s massive hit “Let Me Blow Ya Mind.” I’m sure people are going to have their opinions about which beats were selected for this record, which ones weren’t, or complain about what is/isn’t a remix like I did at the beginning of all this…and sure, you can have any of these debates if you wanna yourself – but the facts remain, N0va’s focused all throughout The Essentials and continuing on the hot-streak he’s been on with completely solid rhymes. The beats were obviously locked-down on this album…regardless of whether or not they’re your favorites or not, every one of them is tried, tested, and true…whether YOU like them or not, millions of other people out there, do. Fantastic Hip-Hop vibes in this track from N0va…you hear the words he chooses & you gotta admire what the guy does – he’s not afraid of finding a way to include more complex words if that’s the way to say what he really wants to say…as a result, as listeners, you can appreciate how he’s taking the time to assemble these songs like verbal puzzles where he makes sure all the pieces fit 100% correctly.
“Fuck all this new rap shit, I’ve been taking it back.” Facts. No doubt that N0va has been outhustling & outworking the rest out there in the scene for several years now…as far as getting new music out there into the world, he’s by far one of the most consistent for quality & quantity…you get both with this emcee. “Waterfalls” (Russ – “Voicemail”) has the man flexing the finesse of that signature style & swagger you’ll find in N0va’s material throughout his career, confidently as ever. I think he’s chosen wisely to go with what’s probably the least-known of the beats in this set to make the longest appearance you’ll find from him on The Essentials with the second of two tracks that hits the three-minutes or more mark on this record – everything else you’ll find is under two-minutes or less than ninety-seconds. N0va’s moving quickly and wasting no time on this record – you’ll hear it on the mic & see it in the short timeframe he’s working with on this album; that being said, as I pointed out earlier, the more time you get with this emcee, quite often the better – “Waterfalls” is no exception to that rule. Hooks are solid in the chorus – but as is the case a lot of the time with N0va’s music, the verses will always be what pulls you in the most…ultimately, I think that’s the side of the fence you wanna land on as an emcee. I ain’t knockin’ the hooks he creates – he’s always got somethin’ for ya – I’m just sayin’ that as a wordsmith, you’d likely always want those verses so loaded with lyricism to be what stands out most as a rapper…in N0va’s case, I think he’s got that locked-down tight. LISTEN to the way he starts this track out after shifting from the hooks into the first verse! Like…you KNOW that’s what you want – that’s personality & charisma on the mic right off the drop, that’s what that is right there homies.
Here’s a perfect example of what I was talking about at the very beginning of this review…you telling me there’s an emcee out there that wouldn’t want to step to the bars of a cut like “Forgot About Dre?” You kidding me right? EVERY rapper out there would have killed to have had this beat come their way first if the opportunity had come along…we’re obviously long past that time now, yet the impact of this cut STILL makes a massive impression on ya, even to this very day – that’s how far ahead of the game that cut truly was/is. I’m all about it N0va – you get a solid thumbs-up from me on this version of yours bruh; I think the beat of “Forgot About Dre” is always going to be more than half the equation whether it’s you, or Dre, or Eminem on the mic, but this is definitely another solid example of making the most out of your moment, 100%. The real question is, when you go THIS big…and you’re taking on a song of this magnitude…how will the people react to it? And honestly I don’t really know…my gut tells me that, although the sound of Dre or Em is what people would know & expect to hear, N0va establishes an impact of his own, a genuinely interesting flow, and impresses quickly with his own approach to this cut. That could be key…the bigger the song, the more haters you’ll find looking for the original in a remix or alternate-version…but if you do things right and you own the moment like N0va is here, a track like this stands a chance of success even with the most seasoned-veterans of HaterNation out in Internetland.
“Killin’ beats like a homicide” right to the end of The Essentials, N0va takes on the most current of the cuts you’ll find from the beats on this record with Logic’s latest collabo with Eminem from earlier this year. He finishes this album with one of his strongest performances for sure – and he needed to bring it here; not only do you find an insane flow in the original version of this track to begin with, but let’s face facts, there’s next to nothing happening here in the actual beat itself. It’s got a lil’ bit goin’ in its favor – maybe…I could just as easily make an argument otherwise…I think that main melody-line is either going to be one that pulls people in or repels people completely…that’s gonna be something that each individual set of ears out there judges for themselves in this version, the original, or any other that uses it. Ain’t no secret either…have a quick look online and you’ll see that was a polarizing cut out there this year for sure…tons of opinions on that one…mind you, just about everyone & their dog seems to think it’s time to pick on Eminem and it’s become a noticeable trend out there yet again in the industry for like, the millionth time in the guy’s career. So there’s that too. Anyhow…say what you want about the beat itself…it’ll work for some, not for others, and I get that – but what makes the song work in both its original form and this variation by N0va, is the fact that the emcees have to bring it harder than ever to make it work at ALL…it’s damn near so minimal and includes very little meat in its beat – if you’re not swinging for the fences like N0va IS here, it’d fall flat entirely. So props to the man, because he’s the heartbeat of what drives this last cut to success in particular…he’s been reliable as ever throughout this set, but it’s right here at the end where he’s the most alone in the mix, and still gives you everything you want to hear & more from the microphone. Solid material all over The Essentials…smart move homie.
Find music from N0va at his page at Bandcamp here: https://shawnnova.bandcamp.com/music